In Bucks County, located in Levittown, Pennsylvania, out of the 1,992 foreclosure actions filed between July ’09 and April ’10, only 516 have taken advantage of the Bucks County Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program—this includes merely making an appointment to meet with an attorney. And from the 516, 418 actually went through the motion and had a conference with an attorney.
The program provides assistance to homeowners in their negotiations with lenders. However, an increase in foreclosure filings, as well as lack of both funds and staff, all add up to, sadly, an impending doom for the program.
Legal aid and credit counseling firms, last year, were persistent in their cry for help. In August, 2009, the Bucks County Mortgage Foreclosure Program was established, and though it’s due to shut down by the end of the year, its scheduling was based on the belief mortgage foreclosure rates would drop. They haven’t. Instead, according to the most recent numbers, foreclosure filings have increased (186 July, 2009 to 231 April, 2010).
From the beginning of 2010 to this past May, 251 homes were sold at the Bucks County sheriff’s sale and auction. Compare this to the 160 homes sold only a year ago, within the same first five month time frame. Clearly, those involved with the launch of the program, hadn’t the slightest notion the need for their assistance would be so great.
Through an order from President Judge Susan Devlin Scott, all lenders filing foreclosure actions in Bucks County must take part in mediation with the homeowners. Once a homeowner has received a foreclosure notice, they are notified of the Bucks County Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program and hotline which refers them to both legal aid, and credit counseling services.